Football | 1 week ago

When the nation starts rowing in behind Martin O'Neill's team selections, you know he's gotten it right.

When Wes Hoolahan was dropped at the Euros, nobody outside of the RTÉ studio were really up in arms. We needed pace and aggression and direct play and the manager had the team to do that. Hoolahan? Well, he was just the perfect substitute that could change our play entirely.

The playmaker has been dropped since but the support for the decision hasn't always been unanimous because the team hasn't always been right.

Now it is.

The task was simple for Ireland to qualify for their fourth ever World Cup. Beat Wales and then beat Denmark over two legs.

So we sent in a team of warriors to do a job in Cardiff. Mission complete.

We sent out our finest spoilers to ruin the lives of the Danes in Copenhagen. They sapped their energy, they weighed them down and they pissed them off. Mission complete.

All that's left is to beat them in Dublin with 90 minutes standing between the Irish and Russia.

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It's important to remember that 0-0 is as good for Denmark as it is for Ireland in the second leg so it's not like they're going to come mad looking for a goal and leave themselves open.

It will be cagey again. They opposition will be more aware of the threat that the Irish pose to their breathing capabilities. Ireland will need a goal but they don't need it straight away.

It makes sense to play tight. Not conceding should be the priority because one Denmark goal means the Irish need two and we don't often do that too well in these games.

The template, therefore, is The Cardiff Job.

That would mean one change to the side that returned home from Scandinavia with a goalless draw.

David Meyler comes in for O'Dowda which adds even more steel and frees up Robbie Brady to push out wide or further forward again - he can interchange with Hendrick.

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The inclusion of Daryl Murphy - who only got 20 touches at Parken Stadium - might raise eyebrows but, much like he did in the home win over Germany, he's a solid out for Ireland in the initial exchanges.

That team right there is not only capable of producing something from nothing which is what we've become accustomed to in defensive displays, but they are all work horses who won't let the Danes get around them too easily. They can make it miserable and they can produce fireworks too.

They also pave the way for three genuinely exciting substitutions who could help turn the game for Ireland.

  • Wes Hoolahan
  • Shane Long
  • Callum O'Dowda

This could be a 120-minute battle but Ireland have 14 players capable of limiting Denmark and able to hurt them too. This is the team O'Neill will probably opt for and it's hard to argue with.

While you're here, check out the latest episode of #SportsJOElive where we had Irish legends Shay Given and Clinton Morrison on the couch!


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